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Injury and Decorum in Iraq

There are no longer any American troops being wounded in Iraq.

Now they are “injured.” Listen closely to the news and you will be hard pressed to hear the word “wounded.” “Wounded” conjures up a different image than “injured,” and here we see yet again the invertebrate nature of the American press. Yesterday, while preparing some onions and butternut squash, I got carried away with the knife and injured myself. That injury was treated with cold running water and a band aid that I’m not even using today.

On the other hand, if I had been hit in the same hand in my kitchen with a 7.62 X 39mm bullet traveling in excess of 700 meters per second, I would have lost several fingers and possibly my whole hand. That’s the difference between being injured and wounded. Contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, being hit by bullets and shrapnel and secondary missiles from high explosives seldom causes something that might be dismissed as a “flesh wound.” Tearing and cavitation of tissue, the shattering of bone, the severance of vessels and tendons, not to mention the absolute septic filth of these insults to the human body are anything but “just” a flesh wound. This is not the image the Department of Defense and the US press want us to carry around inside our heads. We might lose our stomach for war, just as most of these “injured” troops do the very moment they are confronted with bleeding deformities, disfiguring burns, amputations, shock and pain, and often permanent disabilities.

Now you have your leg. Now you don’t. Get your head around that, and you’ve got your head around war.

We all know the count of the dead, even though the DoD and the press wants to somehow separate the combat deaths from the non-combat deaths (as if suicides and fatal vehicle accidents are no more common among GIs in Iraq right now than they are in Hinesville, Georgia or Fayetteville, North Carolina). But well over 1,000 of our sons, husbands, fathers, and even a few daughters, wives, and moms… have been wounded.

They likely would be alright if they had not been there in the first place. This is an embarrassing fact. Almost as embarrassing as the fact that all this maiming and killing – which by the way includes thousands of Iraqis – was started for no nobler purpose than plunder and power.

I’m not even going to go into the questions of Gulf War Syndrome, depleted uranium, or the more insidious post traumatic stress disorder that is transformed into a pathogen that attacks loved ones and society. I won’t even belabor that every single one of us, at the end of the road, is a casualty in this war. For now, I’m just talking about wounds, because the very word has become anathema to the Ken & Barbie media.

A human being is a collection of trillions of cells organized in a way that makes a tiny part of nature conscious and purposive. The mere act of reading this is a phenomenon of such immense and miraculous complexity that it will never be fully understood. We can, however, at least appreciate it and show it due reverence. We can respect our own existence and this gift that nature has bestowed on each and all of us.

War technology is science in the service of obscene anatomical vandalism. There is a reason we never see images of the wounded that are the day-to-day reality of this war by those we jokingly refer to as journalists. If we did, public acquiescence to this regime’s little adventure would evaporate. What is now unimaginable to many would be placed before us un-sanitized, and we would recoil from it like a roomful of spiders.

Perhaps the first casualty we need to inflict on the Bush junta is to wound decorum. No one will like what they see when we pull the curtain back off the charnel house, and we will be castigated and resented for bringing the broken bodies into the room. But once the shattered flesh is there in front of it, America will lose its stomach for this war and for these home-grown Mussolinis of our de facto government.

STAN GOFF is the author of “Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti” (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and of the upcoming book “Full Spectrum Disorder” (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He is a member of the BRING THEM HOME NOW! coordinating committee, a retired Special Forces master sergeant, and the father of an active duty soldier. Email for BRING THEM HOME NOW! is bthn@mfso.org.

Goff can be reached at: sherrynstan@igc.org

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